Ugah: Let them eat CAKE!

CAKE: Ugah. Feminine noun. (Strong’s 5692). The most generic Hebrew word for cake/loaf was ugah, but there was also many specific cakes mentioned, including: Raisin cake (A’shishah: Strong’s 809); Fig cake (D’velah: Strong’s 1690); Offering cake (Khallah: Strong’s 2471); and Pagan cake (Kavvan: Strong’s 3561).

Root: עגה

Sounds like: oo-gah

Today is bitter-sweet for me. Our oldest child, Grace, is moving out of province to go to Crandall University in New Brunswick. I’m genuinely sad to see her go, but I’m also genuinely excited for the new adventure awaiting her! It’s a big leap of faith for me… and for her… and it’s worth celebrating. Perhaps we should eat some cake.

Cake is often associated with celebrations: birthday cakes and anniversary cakes, graduation cakes and bon voyage cakes. Having cake to celebrate goes at least as far back as 1000 BCE when king David celebrated bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. David was so happy that he danced, gave offerings to YHWH,  and distributed three cakes to everyone:

2 Samuel 6:17-19 (see also 1 Chronicles 16:1-3)

And David was dancing before YHWH with all his strength, and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of YHWH with joyful shouting and the sound of the trumpet.

Then it happened, as the ark of YHWH was coming into the city of David, that Michal the daughter of Saul looked down through the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before YHWH; and she was contemptuous of him in her heart.

Now they brought in the ark of YHWH and set it in its place inside the tent which David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before YHWH. When David had finished offering the burnt offering and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of YHWH of armies. Further, he distributed to all the people, to all the multitude of Israel, both to men and women, a cake of bread [khallat lekhem], one of dates (or meat) [eshpar], and one of raisins [wa-a’shishah] to each one. Then all the people left, each to his house.

Cake was celebratory food!

Raisin cakes 

David offered raisin cakes to his people, to celebrate, and that seems to have been a very popular choice within the Hebrew scriptures. Solomon included it in his love letter:

Song of Songs 2:3-5

The Bride:

“Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. 

In his shade I took great delight and sat down, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

He has brought me to his banquet hall, and his banner over me is love.

Refresh me with raisin cakes [ba-a’shishoht], sustain me with apples, because I am lovesick.

 

Fig cakes

Fig cakes, or d’velah, could be a cake baked with flour and figs [t’ehn]… but there were indications that d’velah might also have been pressed figs, lumped together. Either way it was a cake in form.

Abigail showed kindness to David by sending clusters of raisins and fig cakes:

1 Samuel 25:18-19

Then Abigail hurried and took two hundred loaves of bread and two jugs of wine, and five sheep already prepared and five measures of roasted grain, and a hundred cakes (clusters) of raisins and two hundred cakes of figs [d’velim], and she loaded them on donkeys. Then she said to her young men, “Go on ahead of me; behold, I am coming after you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal.

When Israel wanted to make David king, they threw a three day party which included fig cakes:

1 Chronicles 12:38-40

All of these, being men of war who helped in battle formation, came to Hebron with a perfect heart to make David king over all Israel; and all the rest of Israel also were of one mind to make David king. They were there with David for three days, eating and drinking, for their kinsmen had prepared for them. Moreover, those who were near to them, as far as Issachar, Zebulun, and Naphtali, brought food on donkeys, camels, mules, and on oxen, great quantities of flour cakes, fig cakes [d’velim] and bunches of raisins, wine, oil, oxen, and sheep. There was joy indeed in Israel.

David’s reign as king was marred with continual warfare. After a particularly gruelling and devastating conflict with the Amalekites, David and his men came across a very hungry Egyptian slave. The slave’s Amalekite captors had abandoned him because he had been ill, but David and his men fed him a slice of fig cake and some raisins:

1 Samuel 30:11-12

Now they found an Egyptian in the field and brought him to David, and gave him bread and he ate, and they provided him water to drink. They also gave him a slice of fig cake [d’velah] and two cakes (clusters) of raisins, and he ate; then his spirit revived. For he had not eaten bread or drunk water for three days and three nights.

As a result of their kindness (and cake!) the Egyptian slave was on the mend. He took David and his men to the camp of the Amalekite rebels, where David and his crew took down their enemies. With just a little food and comfort the slave had been revived from his illness and abandonment.

Centuries later a fig cake was used for healing. King Hezekiah faced a grave illness but after his sincere plea to God for healing, YHWH saved him. The fig cake, given to Hezekiah for healing, wasn’t eaten; it was applied:

2 Kings 20:7 (see also Isaiah 38:21)

[YHWH to Isaiah:] “Return and say to Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘This is what YHWH, the God of your father David says: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I am going to heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of YHWH. And I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will save you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will protect this city for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.”’” 

Then Isaiah said, “Take a cake of figs [d’velet t’ehnim].” And they took it and placed it on the inflamed spot, and he [Hezekiah] recovered.

Barley cakes

Barley was frequently associated with bread, but there is only story in the Bible that mentioned barley cakes/loaves (ugat s’orim)… and it seems like a rather odd (and gross) story.

Ezekiel was living in a time of distress and famine… and his eating habits resembled desperate measures:

Ezekiel 4:9-13

[YHWH to Ezekiel:] “But as for you, take wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt, and put them in one vessel and make them into bread for yourself; you shall eat it according to the number of the days that you lie on your side, 390 days. 

Your food which you eat shall be twenty shekels a day by weight; you shall eat it from time to time. The water you drink shall be a sixth of a hin by measure; you shall drink it from time to time. You shall eat it as a barley cake [w-ugat s’orim], having baked it in their sight over human dung.

Then YHWH said, “In this way the sons of Israel will eat their bread unclean among the nations where I will scatter them.” 

This seemed like a very strange request that YHWH was imposing on Ezekiel… and it was, but it was making a point. Cow and camel dung, for example, was used as fuel for fire. In such a desperate time, when there was no cow or camel to produce dung, human dung was a last, desperate, resort. It forced the Jewish people to eat ceremonially unclean food.

Ezekiel 4:17

But I [Ezekiel] said, “Oh, Lord YHWH! Behold, I have never been defiled; for from my youth until now I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by animals, nor has any unclean meat ever entered my mouth!” 

This was agonizing to Ezekiel, who cherished the sacred laws. Seeing his heart, YHWH stopped Ezekiel and provided a substitute: cow’s dung in place of human dung. 

Ezekiel 4:15-17

Then He said to me, “See, I will give you cow’s dung in place of human dung, so that you may prepare your bread over it.” Moreover, He said to me, “Son of man, behold, I am going to break the staff of bread in Jerusalem, and they will eat bread by weight and with anxiety, and drink water by measure and in horror, because bread and water will be scarce; and they will tremble with one another and waste away in their guilt.”

By choice the Hebrew people were unclean in their guilt, but YHWH provided a substitute for them. It wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last.

Offering cakes 

Khallah is widely recognized today as a cherished Jewish food staple often served at the Shabbat dinner. But in the Hebrew Bible khallah (or khaloht in plural form) could be either unleavened or leavened. The word khallah did not represent a certain style of cake or loaf, rather it indicated its purpose. A khallah was an offering cake:

Leviticus 7:11-14a

‘Now this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings which shall be presented to YHWH. If he offers it by way of thanksgiving, then along with the sacrifice of thanksgiving he shall offer unleavened cakes [khaloht matzoht] mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes [khaloht] of well stirred fine flour mixed with oil. With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving, he shall present his offering with cakes [khaloht] of leavened bread. Of this he shall present one of every offering as a contribution to YHWH.

Khallah was also described as a kind of dough offering:

Numbers 15:17-21

Then YHWH spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land where I am bringing you, then it shall be, that when you eat from the food of the land, you shall lift up an offering to YHWH. Of the first of your dough you shall lift up a loaf [khallah] as an offering; as an offering of the threshing floor, so you shall lift it up. From the first of your dough you shall give to YHWH an offering throughout your generations.’”

It’s important to note that the Tabernacle also housed a table of khaloht cakes:

Leviticus 24:5-9

“Then you shall take fine flour and bake twelve cakes [khaloht] with it; two-tenths of an ephah shall be in each cake [ha-khallah]. And you shall set them in two rows, six to a row, on the pure gold table before YHWH. You shall put pure frankincense on each row so that it may be a memorial portion for the bread, an offering by fire to YHWH. Every Sabbath day he shall set it in order before YHWH continually; it is an everlasting covenant for the sons of Israel. And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place; for it is most holy to him from YHWH’s offerings by fire, his portion forever.”

Pagan Cake 

Pagans also placed special significance on cake. Hosea spoke of the children of Israel who turned to foreign gods and loved raisin cakes more than they loved their Creator:

Hosea 3:1

Then YHWH said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet is committing adultery, as YHWH loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes [a’shisheh a’navim].”

Pagan sacrificial cakes offered to the “queen of heaven” were called kavvans and they are only mentioned twice, both in the book of Jeremiah. Although not named, the title “queen of heaven” could be any one of the Ancient Near East goddesses, including Anat, Astarte/Ishtar, or Ashtoreth. 

Jeremiah 7:16-19

[YHWH:] “As for you, do not pray for this people, and do not lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not plead with Me; for I am not listening to you. Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough to make sacrificial cakes [kawwanim] for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods in order to provoke Me to anger. Are they provoking Me?” declares YHWH. “Is it not themselves instead, to their own shame?”

It was true. They shamelessly provoked YHWH:

Jeremiah 44:16-19

[The people to Jeremiah:] “As for the message that you have spoken to us in the name of YHWH, we are not going to listen to you! But we will certainly carry out every word that has proceeded from our mouths, by burning sacrifices to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, just as we ourselves, our forefathers, our kings, and our leaders did in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; for then we had plenty of food and were well off and saw no misfortune.

But since we stopped burning sacrifices to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything, and have met our end by the sword and by famine. And,” said the women, “when we were burning sacrifices to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, was it without our husbands that we made for her sacrificial cakes [kawwanim] in her image, and poured out drink offerings to her?”

It seemed to them that when they offered sacrificial cakes to the Queen of Heaven everything went well, but when they stopped everything went wrong, including war and famine. But it was very short-sighted. To their detriment, the people opted to put their faith in something beyond YHWH, and they were unapologetic for their actions… and it did not bode well for them. The Babylonians brought war and famine to them, beyond what they could imagine! They were stripped of their homes, identity, and culture and they were exiled to out of Israel and into Babylon. 

Images by Melissa Walker Horn (fig cake), Tetiana Shyshkina (khallah bread), Brett Jordan (raisin cake) (Pixabay.com)

Ugah  

One of the more common Hebrew words translated as “cake” or “loaf” was ugah. Ugah was more about the shape or form of the food than the kind of food…both a raisin cake and a loaf of bread could be considered an ugah.

Hosea metaphorically used the word ugah to describe the downfall of Ephraim.

Ephraim, symbolic of all ten northern tribes of Israel, was described as a cake not turned over. It was like a cake baked unevenly, burnt on one side. 

Hosea 7:8-14

Ephraim is himself thrown about with the nations; Ephraim has become a round loaf [ugah] not turned over.

Strangers devour his strength, yet he does not know it; gray hairs also are sprinkled on him, yet he does not know it.

Though the pride of Israel testifies against him, yet they have not returned to YHWH their God, nor have they sought Him, despite all this.

So Ephraim has become like a gullible dove, without sense; they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria.

When they go, I will spread My net over them; I will bring them down like the birds of the sky. I will discipline them in accordance with the proclamation to their assembly.

Woe to them, for they have strayed from Me! Destruction is theirs, for they have rebelled against Me! I would redeem them, but they have spoken lies against Me.

And they do not cry to Me from their heart when they wail on their beds; for the sake of grain and new wine they assemble themselves, they turn against Me

To push the metaphor forward, we need to be evenly baked followers of YHWH. We can’t just look good on the surface and be burnt and hard and horrible underneath. Our hearts, genuine and consistent, are always to be for YHWH, not against YHWH.

It’s worth noting that the first time ugah showed up in the Tanakh (Old Testament) it was connected with a Godly encounter. Abraham was visited by three “men”, which he recognized immediately as divine beings:

Genesis 18:1-8

Now YHWH appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. When he raised his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed down to the ground, and said, “My Lord, if now I have found favour in Your sight, please do not pass Your servant by. Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and make yourselves comfortable under the tree; and I will bring a piece of bread [pat lekhem], so that you may refresh yourselves; after that you may go on, since you have visited your servant.” 

And they said, “So do as you have said.” 

So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Quickly, prepare three measures of fine flour, knead it, and make bread cakes [ugoht].” Abraham also ran to the herd, and took a tender and choice calf and gave it to the servant, and he hurried to prepare it. He took curds and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he was standing by them under the tree as they ate.

Abraham told them he would bring them a piece (morsel) of bread, yet he had Sarah bake multiple loaves, or cakes (ugoht) to show their generosity.

Years later, Moses and the Hebrew people escaped slavery in Egypt after the ten plagues had debilitated the Pharaoh and his people. Due to their sudden departure, the Jewish people made unleavened ugoht because they did not have yeast:

Exodus 12:39

And they baked the dough which they had brought out of Egypt into unleavened cakes bread [ugoht matzot]. For it had no yeast, since they were driven out of Egypt and could not delay, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.

In the wilderness, it wasn’t long before they had nothing with which to make cakes. But, under Moses’ leadership, YHWH provided food for them. He sent manna and they took it and turned it into cakes:

Numbers 11:7-9

Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium. The people would roam about and gather it and grind it between two millstones, or pound it in the mortar, and boil it in the pot and make loaves [ugoht] with it; and its taste was like the taste of cake (pastry/vitality) [l’shawd] baked with oil. When the dew came down on the camp at night, the manna would come down with it.

Centuries later, YHWH sent the prophet Elijah to a foreign widow who would care for him and feed him:

1 Kings 17:8-16

Then the word of YHWH came to him, saying, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide food for you.” 

So he arose and went to Zarephath, and when he came to the entrance of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, “Please get me a little water in a cup, so that I may drink.” 

As she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.” 

But she said, “As YHWH your God lives, I have no food, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks so that I may go in and prepare it for me and my son, so that we may eat it and die.” 

However, Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go, do as you have said. Just make me a little bread loaf [ugah] from it first and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son. For this is what YHWH, the God of Israel says: ‘The bowl of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil become empty, until the day that YHWH provides rain on the face of the earth.’” 

So she went and did everything in accordance with the word of Elijah, and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bowl of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil become empty, in accordance with the word of YHWH which He spoke through Elijah.

This foreign widow was preparing the last meal, for her and her son. She was preparing to starve to death… but YHWH would save her and her son. She trusted Elijah, and His God, and willingly gave him her very last meal. She was an example of true faith, and Yeshua (Jesus) used her story to make a point in His hometown synagogue in Nazareth.

Luke 4:24-28

But He [Jesus] said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a severe famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many with leprosy in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things.

The two people of faith, who stood out for Yeshua, were not Jewish people, but a woman from Sidon and a Syrian man. This was not what the Hebrew people wanted to hear. To them, it was an insult. But Yeshua made the point that faith was not about one’s ethnicity, it was about a pure heart. The willingness for the widow to share her very last cake was a beautiful testimony of faith, hope, and sacrifice. 

Cake and the Number Three

It’s worth noting that the number three seems to have a connection with cakes. Abraham was visited by three angelic beings for which Sarah made cakes with three measures of fine flour; there was a three day party, where they ate fig cakes, before David became king; David received and fed fig cakes to a hungry Egyptian who had not eaten for three days and three nights; the widow of Zarephath fed Elijah her last cake after three years and six months of drought; and king Hezekiah, who was healed by the use of a fig cake, was instructed by YHWH to enter the House of YHWH on the third day.

(For more information please check out this earlier blog posting on the third day).

The Angel of YHWH Baked a Cake

Not long after Elijah’s time with the widow of Zarephath, his life was threatened. Queen Jezebel wanted him dead and she vowed to kill him. Elijah was terrified, understandably, and ran in fear. In his desperation he was met by the Angel of YHWH.

The Angel of YHWH was often found to be synonymous with YHWH Himself in various Biblical stories including, Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3), and the visitation to Manoah’s wife (Judges 13). In these stories YHWH and the Angel of YHWH were written as interchangeable, one and the same, making the Angel of YHWH unique from other angelic beings.

This Angel of YHWH consoled and comforted Elijah, and He showed His support by baking him a cake:

1 Kings 19:1-8

Now Ahab told Jezebel everything that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more so, if by about this time tomorrow I do not make your life like the life of one of them.” 

And he [Elijah] was afraid, and got up and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah; and he left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree; and he asked for himself to die, and said, “Enough! Now, YHWH, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 

Then he lay down and fell asleep under a broom tree; but behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, “Arise, eat!” 

And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake [ugat] (baked) on hot coals, and a pitcher of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. 

But the Angel of YHWH came back a second time and touched him, and said, “Arise, eat; because the journey is too long for you.” So he arose and ate and drank, and he journeyed in the strength of that food for forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.

If YHWH was making a cake, undoubtedly it would be the most nourshing food in existence. Elijah journeyed in the strength of that cake for forty days and forty nights. That’s impressive food!

It’s strange to think of the Angel of YHWH baking us a cake. But YHWH wants us to be nourished and fed, physically and spiritually. And He wants us to celebrate! We are his children and one day we will go home to YHWH and Yeshua, and celebrate with the angelic hosts. That will be a party! Let’s hope there’s cake!

Tomorrow is Rosh Hashanah (head of the year) in the Jewish Calendar! It’s a popular time to eat khallah and honey cakes! Why don’t you grab a slice and celebrate your beautiful designation as a Child of God!

Next week: Revisiting KIPPUR

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